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Pakistan bombing kills U.S. diplomat; Bush will visit as planned

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—President Bush will spend Friday night in Pakistan as planned, despite security concerns underscored Thursday when a powerful suicide car bombing killed an American diplomat and three others in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

"Terrorists and killers are not going to prevent me from going to Pakistan," Bush said at a news conference in India, where he signed a controversial nuclear agreement and laid a wreath at a memorial to independence hero and nonviolence prophet Mahatma Gandhi.

The Karachi attack blew out windows at the U.S. consulate and the nearby Marriott hotel, and killed David Foy, 51, the consulate's facilities manager, his driver and a guard who tried to prevent the attack. The bomber also died.

Bush is scheduled to visit only Islamabad during his Pakistan visit, the last stop on a South Asia tour that began Wednesday with a four-hour stopover in Afghanistan. Islamabad, the capital, is considered safer than Karachi, the site of numerous attacks, including a 2002 car bombing that killed a dozen bystanders outside the consulate.

Still, White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley, who's traveling with Bush, acknowledged the risks.

"Pakistan is both an ally in the war on terror and, in some senses, a battleground of the war on terror," he told reporters in New Delhi. "People are comfortable that the necessary precautions are in place."

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf labeled the bombing a "dastardly terrorist attack" in a letter to Bush. "We condemn this outrage in the strongest terms," he wrote, promising that "those responsible will be brought to justice."

While Bush has emphasized Afghanistan's liberation and India's economy during his South Asia tour, the role of Pakistan in the war on terror has popped up on a number of occasions.

On Wednesday, Bush vowed to raise with Musharraf Afghanistan's complaint that fighters from the overthrown Taliban regime are using Pakistan as a base for launching attacks in southern Afghanistan. He also said he would talk to Musharraf about pushing harder to find al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who many suspect is hiding out in Pakistan.

In India, which has been battling separatists backed by Pakistan in Kashmir, a reporter pointedly asked Bush how the United States could cooperate with India and Pakistan on fighting terrorism when "India considers that the epicenter of terrorism is in Pakistan?"

Bush responded that he planned a broad exchange of information on terrorism when he meets with Musharraf on Saturday.

Al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists have targeted Musharraf on at least four occasions—a point Bush has made at least twice publicly during his South Asia tour.

No group claimed responsibility for Thursday's Karachi bombing. Pakistani officials, appearing on local television, speculated that the attack may have been carried out by a group named Jundullah, in retaliation for sentencing to death 11 of its members last month for a 2004 attack on a Pakistani military motorcade that left 10 dead.

The bombing also came a day after the Pakistani military claimed to have killed 40 terrorists in a helicopter raid in western Pakistan near the Afghan border.

"Today's terrorist attack is aimed not only at the Pakistani nation but also our friendly ties with the United States," Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz wrote in a separate letter to Bush. "This despicable act only strengthens our resolve to fight terrorism and underscores the need for us all to work together."

Thursday's explosion upturned nearby vehicles, setting them ablaze, and a few dozen people were reported injured. The amount of explosives used appeared to be unusually large for a car bombing, Pakistani officials said.

A security camera captured a white Toyota Corolla driving near the consulate about 8:40 a.m., then hitting Foy's vehicle on a side street that runs between the consulate and the Marriott, Pakistani officials said.

Foy, from Fayetteville, N.C., joined the State Department in 2003 and came to the Karachi consulate as facilities manager in September. He was married with four daughters.

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(Moritsugu is a Knight Ridder Newspapers special correspondent. Ron Hutcheson contributed from New Delhi.)

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(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

GRAPHIC (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): 20060302 Pakistan blast

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